Walid Ben Mansour, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a $191,601 grant from the National Science Foundation to determine the structure thermal and compositional analysis of Antarctica using seismic, gravity and topographic data and petrological modelling. Ben Mansour’s co-investigator is Douglas A. Wiens, Robert S. Brookings Professor Emeritus of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts and Sciences.
Global warming is not the only factor affecting the presence of ice caps and ice fields on Earth. The interaction between ice sheets and solid Earth strongly influences the evolution of the ice system and the rapid loss of ice mass in Antarctica and Greenland, as Wiens’ previous research has shown.
In this new project, Ben Mansour and Wiens will use the latest geophysical datasets in Antarctica – those most sensitive to the physical state of the mantle (seismic velocity, gravity anomalies, topography) – to estimate 3D temperature variations. down to 380 km depth, as well as the average iron composition of the mantle across the continent.
Ben Mansour previously used a similar methodology to illuminate the lithosphere and sub-lithosphere in Africa. His research showed a good correlation between thermochemical structure and geological boundaries. For the new project, Ben Mansour and Wiens plan to identify these borders under East Antarctica, covered by a layer of ice 2 to 4 km thick.
As part of a larger research plan, Ben Mansour and Wiens will use the new thermochemical model of Antarctica with others from Africa, Australia, South America and India to present a picture of the evolution of the lithosphere since the breakup of the ancient supercontinent called Gondwana. and divided into land masses that we recognize today as continents.